The Hainanese Chicken Rice dish is one of the easiest, simplest, healthiest, yet utterly divine chicken dishes in the world. Its cooking concept is basic. You dip the the chicken in a boiling broth flavored with ginger. This chicken has to poach for nearly an hour. Once done, you boil the rice in the chicken broth and flavor it with garlic and ginger. The result is a powerful aroma of freshly cooked chicken and its scent-sational flavors of ginger and garlic. After it is cooked, the tender,boiled chicken is sliced, and served with side dipping sauces of chili or soy sauce and a bowl of crushed peanuts and sugar.
I have tried Hainanese Chicken in different parts of the world : Manila, Hongkong, the USA and the original in Singapore. The best was of course, Singapore. A few years ago, we celebrated New Year’s Eve in this cosmopolitan Asian city. After a long 20-hour trip to Asia from the USA, we landed at the Singapore Changi Airport, my favorite airport in the whole world, on December 31st. We headed straight to the Raffles Hotel to enjoy an authentic Singapore Sling cocktail to ring in the New Year.
The next day we went to the Hawker Centre. Hawker centers in Singapore are food courts. They are a cultural attraction, as well as cheap eats for the locals. And Singapore being a food paradise, I knew I would be able to enjoy the Hainanese Chicken Rice, boiled chicken, seasoned with lots of garlic, ginger and garnished with scallions, with a spicy side dipping sauce.
For an authentic perspective on this dish, I contacted my niece, Tsui Chern, who grew up in Singapore. Her pointers were simple, yet significant: add crispy fried shallots and a dash of white pepper, plus green onions to the chicken soup broth when it’s served along with the chicken and chili sauce. Thanks, Tsui Chern for a savory suggestion to the soup.
Here’s my own take on my personal favorite Hainanese Chicken Rice. I have travelled all over the world to eat it and cook it. And in the end, there’s nothing like my very own kitchen for the best in comfort cooking.
Hainanese Chicken Rice, Singapore-style
- 4 pounds chicken cutlets bone-in
- 10 cups chicken broth or water to boil chicken
- 4 stalks scallion whites chopped
- 4 pieces fresh ginger each 1-inch slice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon xiao xing rice wine
- 1 Tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil for chicken rice
- 2 cloves garlic for chicken rice,minced
- 1 piece fresh ginger 1-inch piece,minced, for chicken rice
- 2 cups uncooked white rice use long grained rice or jasmine white rice grains
- 3 1/2 cups chicken rice broth for chicken rice, what was used to cook chicken
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil for chicken rice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup soy sauce for serving on side
- 1/4 cup chili sauce bottled, for serving on side
- 1 medium cucumber peeled, sliced, for serving
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts crushed, for serving on the side
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar to mix into peanuts, for serving on the side
- 4 stalks scallion greens chopped, for garnish
To Make the Chicken:
- Wash the chicken well. Pat dry with paper towels. Rub salt all over. Rub the ginger, garlic, soy sauce and rice wine on the chicken. Set aside.
- Fill a large stock pot with about 10 cups of water, 2 pieces fresh ginger, 2 stalks scallions whites. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. This is when you add the chicken.
- When water starts to boil, lower heat to a slow simmer and cook the chicken in this simmering temperature for about 55 minutes or until chicken is cooked thoroughly and there are no pink parts left. To check if done, pierce the chicken thigh, and if the juices run clear, then meat is cooked.
- Once the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat and immerse meat quickly in a bowl filled with ice and cold water. This is supposed to stop the cooking process and keep the meat tender. Remove chicken from ice water bath. Rub the sesame oil all over. Put the chicken aside.
To Make the Chicken Rice:
- Using the saved chicken broth from cooking make the chicken rice. In a medium pot, over high heat, sauté the garlic and ginger in vegetable oil. Add the rice grains and stir around for 2 minutes. When the rice grains get puffy, add the chicken broth, salt. Stir gently. Cover pot and allow to boil. The broth will boil in about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Lower fire to a slow simmer. Cover and let the rice cook. This takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the rice grains gently so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Make sure the rice is cooking in low heat at this stage.
How to Plate:
- Serve the chicken in slices on a platter. Put mounds of chicken rice next to it. Garnish with scallions and sliced cucumbers . Serve with the chicken soup broth that came from cooking the chicken. Garnish the soup with scallions and serve piping hot.
- Side dipping sauces: serve this Hainanese Chicken with the following -- crushed peanuts mixed with sugar. Additional side sauces: soy sauce with scallions and chili sauce.
- My sister who is based in the Philippines, suggested I use free-range or organic chicken for this recipe for a more wholesome, flavorful result. Feel free to use what is convenient.